Culloden Battlefield homes granted final approval

The homes are planned for a site within the boundary of the Culloden (Battlefield) Conservation Area

Proposals for 16 homes on the edge of the Culloden Battlefield site which were previously the subject of a bizarre planning mix-up have been granted final approval.

Developers Kirkwood Homes will move ahead with the construction of the properties after Highland Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee backed the design and layout of the project.

Planning permission for the development, which sits within the boundary of the Culloden (Battlefield) Conservation Area, was refused by the Highland Council in 2013 but this decision was appealed by the applicant and permission was granted, subject to conditions and a s75 planning agreement, by a Scottish Government Reporter in 2014.

The current planning application was first considered by the south planning application committee on January 30. It was deferred to allow the applicant to amend the house design to better reflect the Highland context and the Conservation Area.

Following the amendments, the south planning applications committee approved the development in March by the by five votes to three. However the plans were brought back before the local authority after two SNP councillors claimed they voted the wrong way.

Inverness South councillor Andrew Jarvie proposed a motion for a further redesign of the homes to be carried out, which was supported by Ron MacWilliam.

Committee chairman Jimmy Gray then proposed an amendment that would pass the application, backed by vice chairwoman Carolyn Caddick.

But there was apparent confusion between the motion and amendment, and the vote passed five to three.

At a meeting of the EDI committee on May 17, members considered the Notice of Amendment and then went on to approve the application following a vote which went 12 votes to 8 in favour of approving the application.

Councillor Andrew Jarvie said today it was “really quite gutting” that the designs had now been approved when the plans should have originally been refused 5 votes to 3 in March.

He added: “It really is quite gutting that houses which fall so short of the criteria have been approved in such a sensitive area.

“So many people of all persuasions will be bitterly disappointed by the result today and how a mistake led to this outcome.

“I am really quite disappointed, particularly with the councillors who pressed the wrong button at the start.

“This should have been refused but because of a mistake we had to refer the matter. Now it has been approved. This should have been refused in March and we should have now been looking at a new design.”

A group set up to protect the area had hoped the committee would give archaeologists a chance to examine the location before making a decision.

The site is about half a mile from the location of the battle, fought between Jacobite and government forces in April 1746, and the Group to Stop Development at Culloden have argued that the fighting took place in a much wider area than what is regarded as the battle’s location.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said the decision was the result of a flawed planning system.

Diarmid Hearns, head of policy for NTS, said: “The situation at Culloden perfectly illustrates why the current planning system has to be reformed and that the current balance between the rights of communities, the significance of national heritage and the profits of developers is out of kilter.

“Local people and the democratically elected Highland Council rejected the application to build houses at Viewhill Farm in 2013; yet developers were able to use a route of appeal not open to ordinary residents to have this decision overturned by the Scottish Reporter. This was the wrong decision in the wrong place.”

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